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Term limits get the boot

With less than two hours left in the 2003 session, House members agreed with senators Wednesday to repeal their own 12-year term limits.

SB240, which passed in the House 40-34, takes away term limits, which wouldn't have kicked in until 2006, for legislators and state elected officers, such as governor and attorney general.

Only one House member spoke against repeal. Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay, said that most Utahns clearly want term limits for lawmakers. A recent Deseret News/KSL-TV poll shows 76 percent of Utahns didn't want lawmakers to repeal term limits.

Tuesday, Utah Term Limits formally filed a citizen initiative petition that would put a law before citizens limiting lawmakers' terms to eight years. But it has an uphill fight to gather enough signatures to get the measure on the 2004 ballot.

A number of House members said there already are term limits for them — elections every two years. Rep. Dave Ure, R-Kamas, said while few legislators serve longer than 12 years, the body should value the experience of 16- or 18-year incumbents.

Rep. Steve Mascaro, R-West Jordan, said the average tenure in the House is four years and three months. "Term limits just harms the right of people to vote" for whom they wish, he said.

While it is true the part-time House and Senate have regular turnover, it mostly comes not through party delegates or voters kicking an incumbent out. Rather, it comes through voluntary retirements and deaths.

In the 2002 elections, of the House members who sought re-election, 93 percent won. The 16-member freshman class in the 75-member House is the smallest in 22 years.

Those who voted for term limits in 1994 and voted to repeal them Wednesday were Reps. Jeff Alexander, R-Provo; Eli Anderson, D-Tremonton; Bud Bowman, R-Cedar City; Marda Dillree, R-Farmington; Jim Gowans, D-Tooele; and Ure, R-Kamas. All would be forced from office in 2006 if they chose to run in 2004 and won another two-year term.